Alexander Schneider conducts Marlboro Festival Orchestra – Vivaldi, Mozart, Haydn – Forgotten Records

by | Jun 11, 2023 | Classical CD Reviews, Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Alexander Schneider conducts Marlboro Festival Orchestra – Vivaldi, Mozart, Haydn – Forgotten Records FR 2128/9 (2 CDs: 91:20, complete listing below) [] *****:

Forgotten Records offers the 18 July 1962 concert from the Berkshire Festival, Theatre-Concert Hall, Tanglewood, featuring conductor Alexander Schneider (1908-1993) and selected soloists. Schneider does not usually receive his due in the so-called “Vivaldi Revival” legacy ascribed to a 1960s New York disc jockey, DeKoven, who aired programs on WNYC and WRFM.  Occasionally, violinists Fritz Kreisler and Nathan Milstein would program a Vivaldi sonata in the course of a recital, so the concertante string works offered here at Tanglewood embody rare events.

The two concertos that open the respective halves of the program, that in C Major and the Sinfonia in B Minor, bear “sacred” designations, and conform to the church-sonata format of slow-fast. A pair of musicians who would later help constitute the Guarneri String Quartet (estab. 1964), Michael Tree (1934-2018) and David Soyer (1923-2010), violin and cello, respectively, collaborate in Vivaldi’s aforementioned C Major Concerto, in which the second violin part is realized by a relatively youthful Shmuel Ashkenasi (b. 1941). Intimacy and verve mark each of these renditions, warmly received by the Tanglewood audience, after the marvelous warblings in the last movement of Il Riposo. Forgotten Records does not credit the violinist for the concertos in E Minor and E Major, but despite their brevity (of seven minutes), they manage a degree of warm excitement and plastic phrasing quite stylistic.

The first of the major works on the program, Haydn’s 1768 Symphony in F Minor “La Passione,” presents a work that well conforms to the composer’s Sturm und Drang sensibility of the times, a precursor of the Romantic sensibility. The consistent, dark color of the work – all four movements set in the same key, with only the “Trio” of the Menuetto diverting into the major – calls up the Baroque roots of the music, another “church sonata” structure made emotionally vivid and compelling by the momentum of the fast movements, Allegro di molto 4/4 and Presto 2/2.  Conductor Schneider, himself a veteran chamber musician long associated with the Budapest String Quartet, proves a master of ensemble balances and shifting textures, overcomes any “innate pessimism” of affect by way of his commitment, the two fast movements, to the intense, persistent energy in Haydn’s score.   

Pianist Rudolf Serkin (1903-1991), a founder and seminal figure in the history of the Marlboro Festival, appears in Mozart’s 1782 Concerto No.12 in A Major, conceived for Vienna as a vehicle for the composer himself, who felt the work – one of three concertos – “brilliant, pleasing to the ear, and natural – without being vapid.” While the virtuosic cadenzas derive from Mozart himself, the lyrically serene second movement, Andante in D Major, has its origin in a theme by Mozart’s early mentor J.C. Bach. The opening movement Allegro flows by with such alert, seamless acumen, we barely feel the erudition of achievement in composer and faithful performers. Typically, Serkin sings his own part as he plays. His delicious trill at the end of the second movement warrants the price of admission. The Marlboro strings execute Mozart’s rocket figures with energetic glee. The last movement Allegretto, generously gives us an ingeniously playful rondo, in which the principals alternate their realizations of the main theme, a tour de force in ensemble. Serkin would have characterized the Marlboro experience as “collective enthusiasm,” here wonderfully restored. 

—Gary Lemco 

Alexander Schneider conducts Marlboro Festival Orchestra

Concerto in C Major, RV 556 “Per la solennita di S. Lorenzo”;
Concerto in D Minor for 2 Violins, Strings and Basso Continuo, RV 514;
Sinfonia in B Minor for Strings, RV 169 “Al Santo Sepulchro”;
Concerto in E Major for Violin and Strings, RV 270 “Il Riposo”;

Symphony No. 49 in F Minor “La Passione”;

Piano Concerto No. 12 in A Major, K. 414 –

Guest Artists
Rudolf Serkin, piano
Michael Tree, violin
Shmuel Ashkenasi, violin
David Soyer, cello

More information through Forgotten Records

Album Cover for Alexander Schneider and Marlboro Festival